Board of Regents confirm undergraduate tuition freeze next academic year

The board meeting also focused on the regents’ concerns, including student enrollment and the budget.

Hana Ikramuddin and Abbey Machtig

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved a tuition freeze and discussed enrollment and budget concerns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic at a special meeting Tuesday.

The board unanimously approved a tuition freeze for next academic year, a proposal that was first discussed on April 7. This freeze will not apply to the medical and dentistry schools, or to three masters programs in the College of Science and Engineering. 

“A central theme is uncertainty, and whatever certainty we can offer to students and their families will go a long way,” Regent Mike Kenyanya said at the meeting.

The board has recently discussed the impacts COVID-19 may have on enrollment in the coming years.

Due to recent cancellations of the ACT and SAT, the board is considering going test optional for next year’s admissions process.

The majority of the incoming class have made decisions regarding their admissions status and the board expects around 6,000 freshmen to enroll by May 1, a number that is comparable to this year’s enrollment.

Regents continued to discuss the financial implications of COVID-19 and the effects on the status of the University’s budget. 

At the April 7 meeting, President Gabel announced a hiring freeze. Tuesday she described other internal budget cuts being implemented. However, the University is not in a fiscal emergency, said Brian Burnett, senior vice president for finance and operations.

“I do not believe that a [fiscal emergency] is a place where the University finds itself today. Could we be there one day, possibly,” Burnett said at the meeting. “I don’t believe the time is here today where we need to consider that action.” 

The University of Minnesota Physicians is among other areas of the University being financially impacted, reporting $20 million in lost revenue over the month of April. 

The Medical School has also taken several actions to cut spending, such as reducing retirement contributions and volunteer salaries. The Medical School expects to receive approximately $4 million in federal and state support. 

“We are here to report the looming challenge economically of the practice and state that we may need help in the future,” said Jakub Tolar, dean of the Medical School at the meeting.

Additionally, the University as a whole will receive $36 million from the federal economic stimulus bill, or ‘CARES’ act. Of that amount, $18 million is designated for student support.

Rachel Croson, the university’s new vice president and provost shared projections for the best and worst case scenarios the university could face in the coming academic year.  

In the best case scenario, Croson warned that many international students may face problems returning to the university; however, most domestic students will be able to return to campus and complete fall semester in-person. In a more severe case, the university could spend fall semester entirely online.

While the extremes are clear, the moderate scenarios are not as easily defined, said Croson.

“This is a challenging time for the university,” said Croson at the meeting. “We remain committed to academic excellence and student success.”